Frequently Asked Questions about Sclerotherapy
How is sclerotherapy performed?
In sclerotherapy, medication is injected into the unwanted vein to cause it to close. The medication displaces the blood, causes the vein to appear lighter and irritates the lining, causing it to collapse. Bandages create external compression, keep the vein closed and prevent blood from flowing to it. Within a month, the vein is absorbed by the body and disappears. We perform sclerotherpay in our office. Anesthesia isn’t needed. The procedure isn’t painful, but the individual injections can cause a slight burning sensation that lasts a few seconds.
What can I expect after sclerotherapy?
We’ll wrap your leg in a compression bandage or support stocking. Usually you can remove the compression and resume normal activities in 24-48 hours. You might experience bruising and the injection site could be tender for a day or so. Your legs will look worse before they look better. But, you’ll see significant improvement in about a month. Some veins require retreatment, and new varicose or spider veins may form.
How do I prepare for sclerotherapy?
Please don’t use lotion or oil on your legs for 24 hours before sclerotherapy. And, shave your legs the night before. Avoid exposure to the sun for a month before and after treatment to help reduce the chance of dark pigmentation forming at the injection site. Bring a pair of shorts to wear during the procedure and plan to wear loose pants, sweats or a skirt to accommodate the compression bandages.
How long does the treatment take? How many treatments will I need?
Please arrive 15 minutes early to check in and prepare for the procedure. The treatment itself takes 20-30 minutes. The number of treatments varies from patient to patient. Many need just one session. If multiple sessions are needed, we’ll schedule them a few weeks apart.
What are the most common side effects?
- Mild itching
- Hyperpigmentation, a light brown discoloration of the skin along the vein in the injection area. It will fade in a few weeks, but could take a year to disappear entirely. Sometimes, a small amount of blood is trapped, hardens in the vein and looks dark blue or bruised. You may need to have this area drained before your next treatment.
- New, fine spider veins may occur. If untreated, they may disappear within a year or can be treated with sclerotherapy.
- Temporary tenderness or bruising at the injection site.
What are the less common side effects?
- Ulceration at the injection site, which usually heals within six weeks, and may result in a small scar.
- Allergic reaction. Be sure to tell us about all allergies.
- Pulmonary embolus or deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot to the lungs or deep vein. This complication is extremely rare.
How much does sclerotherapy cost and will my insurance cover it?
Costs vary, depending on how many treatments you need. Sclerotherapy is usually considered a cosmetic procedure and isn’t covered by insurance. However, some symptomatic veins may qualify for insurance coverage. Check with your health insurance plan for complete details.
Will sclerotherapy work for me?
Varicose veins shouldn’t grow back after effective treatment. However, we can’t alter heredity and aging. And, some patients experience recurrence. We can retreat varicose veins with sclerotherapy or other procedures. This isn’t just cosmetic maintenance, but improves circulation and relieves symptoms.
What other options do I have?
- You can choose to forego treatment. The varicose and spider veins may progress and new ones may form. You should have periodic reevaluations.
- Your doctor might suggest support hose to promote circulation. Or, if you have larger varicose veins, surgical stripping could be appropriate.
- Endovenous laser ablation (ELA) is an alternative to surgical stripping. Please talk with your physician to discuss your options.
How will I feel after sclerotherapy?
You might experience temporary itching or cramping. Your leg will be wrapped with a compression bandage. When the wrap is removed, you may notice bruising and discoloration. This will fade over a few weeks.
Can I exercise after treatment?
You should avoid activities that put pressure on the treated area (like heavy lifting or jogging) for a few days. But, your doctor might suggest a walking program to increase circulation and promote healing.
After a few days, exercise is encouraged. People who use their leg muscles every day heal faster and have fewer complications and less discomfort. The simplest, most effective exercise for good vein function is walking.
Does sclerotherapy cause stains on the skin?
Temporary brownish discoloration is common. It’s caused by a pigment released in the skin from veins in the process of disintegrating. These stains take up to several months to fade, depending on the size of the veins, your skin type and your individual healing ability.
Are the results of treatment with sclerotherapy temporary?
It’s possible for someone with a hereditary predisposition to develop new varicose veins after either surgical or non-surgical treatment. But, generally speaking sclerotherapy is extremely effective in permanently closing off varicose and spider veins. Veins lighten after each treatment.